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Sims 2 In The News

Please note I'm currently working on the new site. I didn't want to take the site offline though, so you can still visit it. However me working on the site while it's still online means a lot of the pages will appear wonky. But not to worry, it won't take too long. Happy
Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 23:00

With a release date officially announced (Sept. 17th, FYI) and the game-tastic Electronic Entertainment Expo in full swing, The Sims 2 has been popping up all over lately. Check out some of the Sims 2 articles and interviews below.


Neil Young on the Future of The Sims

The Sims are all grown up, with a sequel on the way to the PC and a whole new console franchise in the works. We talk to the new General Manager of Maxis, Neil Young, about what the company is up to.

The last few years have been huge for Maxis, the company that started a gaming phenomenon with The Sims. The original franchise is booming, despite some hard lessons learned from the massively multiplayer version, and the game series is reaching out to a whole new audience with a series of console games. And more is on the way! Neil Young recently stepped up to become the General Manager of the company. GameSpy sat down to talk about what the future holds for Maxis and the Sims.

GameSpy: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us during a busy part of the year, and congratulations on the new position! Maxis has a pretty full plate right now, so let's talk about all the franchises you've got in the air one by one. First up: The original The Sims. With Sims 2 speeding to completion, will we see any more expansions to the original Sims?
Neil Young: There are no more expansion packs for the original are planned right now, but our sense is that player created content for The Sims will continue to flourish on www.thesims.com exchange, which we're of course going to continue to support and take to the next level for The Sims 2.

GameSpy: Sales for the expansions were huge all during the product's life. But, how can you tell when you've released 'one expansion too many?' Was Maxis ever worried about that?
Neil Young: Each expansion pack has focused on a most requested feature from fans, like going on vacation, and having pets. They have all been a top sellers and the fans kept asking for more, so we provided it! The Sims had many unique opportunities and avenues to explore whether it was taking your Sims downtown in Hot Date or finally giving your Sims their own pets. Every expansion pack was filled with more content than the previous and we had a talented team working to make each one a success.

GameSpy: Do you think that the Sims audience will embrace the sequel, or will the original continue on its own momentum for several years? How has the core audience been reacting to the sequel so far?
Neil Young: I'm sure that the new audience will embrace The Sims 2 It's really an incredible game with so many new features and elements that really take the Sims into a whole new dimension of realism. Our Sims fan community is eager to experience The Sims 2. We provide weekly updates on screenshots and news at TheSims2.com. I'd hope that we'd continue to attract people to the world of the Sims from multiple places.

GameSpy: So let's talk more about Sims 2. Do you think it has the 'magic' that made the first one such a hit?
Neil Young: The thing that's so exciting to me about Sims 2 is that it's not just that it has the magic of the original but it has this extra dimension that makes the Sims seem so much more real. They really have more than just basic needs, they now have wants, dreams, fears, and memories. They can have children, pass on their DNA to their offspring, grow old and eventually die. It just adds a whole different dimension to them. This coupled with the ability to create and build almost any home, populate neighborhoods, as well as design and evolve your Sims infinitely really makes it an incredibly rich and infinitely variable experience. It's very exciting.

GameSpy: Part of the lasting appeal of the original Sims was how the online community contributed so much downloadable content. What are you doing to encourage that this time around?
Neil Young: Access to custom and community created content via The Sims Exchange is now integrated into The Sims 2 and is only a click or two away so users will easily be able to access it. We've also really tried hard to enable users to more easily create new content whether that's stories via the built-in blogging functionality, the movie and screen capture tools, and through The Sims 2 Body Shop. That last component is actually being released on May 11th and is a stand alone tool for content creators to design unique and diverse Sims that players can use in The Sims 2 and share with others. By the time the game is released, we hope to have thousands of pieces of player made content available to download and use in the game on day one.
Overall, our community means a great deal to us and they play a major role in our development process. We are constantly impressed by the content these creative fans have made for the games.

GameSpy: Do you think casual users will be able to get used to the 3D camera?
Neil Young: Yes and we're doing everything we can to make sure that the camera is easy to use. In addition to the full camera control that you'll have there are a number of preset cameras that the user can select that allows you to very easily select a basic set of views that'll feel familiar to Sims players.

GameSpy: Judging by the screenshots, Sims 2 has an unreal amount of furniture, decorative objects, landscaping, and architecture in tons of different styles. It must be intimidating to create so much content! Do you have a huge team? Who comes up with all the ideas?
Neil Young:: Yes, there certainly is a lot of content, and the object team is quite large right now. The way The Sims 2 works is that each element is a separate object and almost everyone at Maxis contributes to the design- I think that one of the greatest strengths of Maxis' products is object orientation as it allows us to harness the creativity of almost everyone here.

GameSpy: In recent years the Sims franchise has also -- pardon the pun -- "Busted Out" on console systems. How well have the console games done vs. the PC ones?
Neil Young: The PC act is a hard one to follow - We've sold 34 million units worldwide of The Sims franchise on PC and I'm not sure that any console game has done even that well. That said, we've been very, very happy with the performance of the console games - They've touched many millions of people and we hope to continue and expand that with The URBZ: Sims in the City (working title - ed.) due out this fall.

GameSpy: That was going to be my next question! Let's talk about The URBZ (or whatever the final will be called.) What have you learned about the previous Sims console games that you're applying here?
Neil Young: A lot of the same people that built the console Sims products are working on The URBZ, so we certainly get the benefit of their experience - Whether that's in understanding the underlying simulation or how it and the game's pacing and structure need to differ for the console from the PC. We're certainly building from that basis of knowledge.

GameSpy: You'll be debuting The Urbz at this year's E3. What really sets it apart? What's going to bring fans back even if they own the other Sims games?
Neil Young: I think that there's a few things that we hope will appeal to fans and new players alike. The first and most obvious thing you'll notice is the look, sound, and pacing of the product. It just feels like a different game with a familiar center. Once you get past the new look, the sexier Sims, now living in the city there's a whole new meta game about reputation and influence as well as a whole host of microgames that are integrated into the objects. There'll be a whole lot of "new" to see by the time The URBZ ships in November.

GameSpy: Let's move on to Sims Online. It isn't even listed on the front page of Maxis's site anymore. Is the company still actively involved in the product's ongoing updates?
Neil Young: The ongoing updates to TSO are handled by EA's Online division and there are a group of people who worked on the original game working on maintaining and advancing the product. We remain committed to TSO and, in particular, I think that there's a lot more life left in TSO.

GameSpy: What have you learned from Sims Online?
Neil Young: I think that the biggest lesson is that time requirement is a more important decision for mass-market gamers than subscription fee. The subscription fee informs an expectation about time requirement and that in turn affects the purchasing decision of the customer. I think from a game design standpoint we learned a lot about what makes a successful online experience.

GameSpy: Will we be seeing any more massively multiplayer -- hey, even plain ol' online multiplayer -- games from Maxis in the future?
Neil Young:We're not working on any new Massively Multiplayer products, although we're looking closely at how we can build games that connect a massive number of players together in new ways.

GameSpy: We can't forget SimCity. Did SimCity 4 meet expectations? Are any more expansions planned?
Neil Young: SimCity 4 was a big hit for us and was a top seller on the PC charts in 2003. We also released SimCity 4 Rush Hour in 2003, our first expansion pack for the SimCity franchise. In addition, we shipped SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition in 2003, which included both SimCity 4 and Rush Hour.
That said, I think we all feel that it's time to take a fresh perspective on SimCity and you should look to something from us in this regard in the future.

GameSpy: Mnnn... SimCity 5. Is anything in the works yet, or are you letting that one simmer for a couple of years?
Neil Young: You'll have to wait and see...

GameSpy: Any plans to create a SimCity-like game for console gamers?
Neil Young: We haven't announced anything yet.

GameSpy: Game Designer Will Wright still plays a major role in the company. What's he spend his time on these days? What's he got cooking for us next?
Neil Young: Will is involved in everything that Maxis does to some degree. Right now, he's working on his next project.

GameSpy: And along those lines, what's next from Maxis? What do you guys have in store for your fans in the years to come?
Neil Young: Aside from Will's next project, we're really excited to begin broadening The Sims from the people simulator product into a category with a number of products that have Sims inside. We believe pretty strongly that games with underlying simulations that have the flexibility that an object orientation allows in terms of incremental and user created content will be a fixture of the future of games - We're excited to be a part of that future.

GameSpy: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us and good luck at this year's E3!

By Dave Kosak

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